Yes really it was my birthday and look what the wonderful Mr Wellydog bought me.
No not a microwave, he wouldn’t live that one down, but a microwave kiln.
I cant tell you how long I’ve wanted one of these, fused glass has been popular for a long time and I’ve always wanted a go. I can't afford, or even have the room for a proper glass fusing kiln, and knowing me I would pay out all that money and it not be something I would continue with, so this is a good and cheaper (well relatively speaking) alternative, to at least see if it holds my interest.
So Mr Wellydog, being a clever old stick, bought me a kit from Fusitt. it came with the kiln, a wire rack, heat gloves, safety glasses, glass cutter, 6 small bits of coloured glass 4 pieces of dichroic glass, confetti glass, frit (although not as I know it) some flower pieces and jewellery findings. Having dabbled in stained glass and jewellery making, some of these I of course didn’t need, but most of it was essential. It didn’t really come with good instructions…..but as we all know with Google and YouTube, who needs proper instructions!!
It was a both exciting and terrifying.
Mr WD had to open the shop, as its Easter we couldn’t afford not to be open (not that Easter is ever that good for us) but as anyone working for themselves knows, you don’t miss any opportunities, so he stayed long enough to help me with the first firing, which is to prepare the kiln. Don’t ask me why I needed to do this, but the instructions were very clear on this, not on much else, so it needed to be done.
You need to make sure the turntable doesn’t rotate on your microwave. In our case this just meant taking the wheels out from under the plate, but on some you have to turn the plate upside down. Just a quick note on microwaves, everything I have read suggests you don’t use the normal food prep microwave, so again being really organised, my lovely husband stole the microwave we use in the shop to heat up soup and cold tea, so flasks and the need drink tea quicker will be the order of the day in the shop from now on! So the preparation of the kiln takes 3 minutes on full power……and then off Mr Wellydog goes to work. And leaves me to potentially maim myself and blow up the house (ok slight exaggeration)
The next step in the leaflet says “cut your glass to the desired , shape and then fire”, helpful don’t you think?
Luckily I’ve been on a course and knew how to score and cut glass, I have a great oil filled glass cutter so I used that and played around with just a simple piece of orange glass with three flowers on. I thought it was best to be simple for a first try and only put one piece in. I have been lucky as in my darling husband thought that as big is always better, so got me a large kiln. Some of the small ones you can only do one piece at a time in as the internal size is quite small.
To stop the glass melting to the kiln base, it has to be put on a piece of kiln paper, ( I forgot to mention that was included to). Timings for cooking (firing) are vague. Most proper kilns are controlled and temperatures go up and down on a schedule but on a microwave kiln there is very little control. The leaflet suggests you fire for 5 to 6 minutes then check every 30 seconds after to see until you get the desired result.
You can peek in the kiln to check, but use your gloves and only open briefly. The first time I did that I was terrified, it’s no laughing matter, molten glass, but it was easier than I expected. This first one took 12 minutes!!!! Much longer than expected, but it is an old microwave and a large kiln. I discovered later that it not the best idea to just put it straight on for the 12 minutes, or you melt everything to a liquid….oops. I guess the constant checking keeps the temperature a little less fierce.
I was quite happy with the result. I know its not that exciting, but it was for me. It’s the first time I've melted glass!! And to boot I did it in my kitchen!
The stand is a must, as I think when the kiln comes out of the microwave if you didn’t have that, then it would melt through your work tops, as a precaution I did put an old bread board under it to. There is also a lot of heat coming out of the top, so best not to put it under a cupboard.
Now this next bit is the hard bit for me, to allow the glass to anneal and not crack then you have to take the kiln out ( if you leave it in the microwave, it might over heat and ruin it.) and leave the lid on, you then have to wait……for anyone who knows me , patience isn’t a skill I have ever learnt. It says 30 minutes but I did have quite a few crack in my second batch and I think it needs a minimum of and hour to be cool enough, which is just agonising. Especially the firing I did in one go (impatient again) and I knew everything had melted, I was just praying it hadn't dripped off the kiln paper and ruined my kiln, but Phew it was fine.
You can see the yellow bit is all crazed and melted and I pulled this out and used it again, I have discovered the joy of refiring and reusing old bits. I also put odd bits of glass in to just melt and form balls that I the used later on a fishes eye.
I enjoyed doing the fish. I didn’t want to just bung bits of dichroic glass onto other bits of glass, but of course inevitably you do. It’s a good way to experiment and see what happens and how many thing you can layer, or how thin you can stay. I have made a real mess of some bits but I have done a couple I really like.
Its great having a starter kit as it mean you can play straight away, but the colours and types of glass are not really what I would choose so the results are not what I would really like.
So as soon as I can afford to I will be ordering some clear glass, some proper frit, (no idea what the big lumps they gave me were, apart from very easily melted.) and some nice blues and turquoises.
Watch this space ……